Tag Archives: White tea

White tea: Bai Mu Dan (and a digital teaspoon)

Bai Mudan

A dry, light, white chocolatey infusion.
White tea » Fujian New White Teas, ★
Also known as: 白牡丹, [King] White Peony.

Bai Mudan (Chinese: 百牡丹, English translation: White Peony) is incredibly light in weight. A typical three-gram infusion is larger than a heaped tablespoon of this tea. When measuring your teas, pay attention to the density of the loose leaf: one teaspoon of tea can weigh anything from 1 gram (large-leaf white tea) to almost 3 grams (CTC black teas).

I use a digital teaspoon to weigh exactly 3.0 grams of tea for every pot that I brew. Here’s my spoon below:

magic teaspoon
My digital teaspoon. It can weigh tea leaves (or anything else) to within 0.1 grams of accuracy!

I also check the water temperature with a thermometer.

digital thermometer
My digital tea thermometer. With this and the magic teaspoon (above), you get perfect brews every time.

The thermometer reveals two things:

  1. that water boils before 100 °C, and that water poured straight from a boiling kettle into a cold cup is only 88 °C.
  2. that once poured, hot water cools very slowly. Hot water in a glass jug without a lid cools by 0.1 °C every five seconds.

I brew each tea for three and a half minutes at the recommended temperatures: 70 °C for green teas, 75 °C for white and yellow teas, 80° C for black and oolong teas, and 90 °C for pu’er teas, fruit infusions, traditionally-scented teas and tisanes. My phone serves as a stopwatch.

This results in perfect brews every time, and allows for fair comparisons of different teas.

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Bai Mudan is actually a lower-grade pluck of Silver Needles, although many tea-drinkers prefer the taste of Bai Mudan. The former contains sticks and mature leaves, and is suited for personal consumption, whereas the latter contains the finest, furriest, fluffiest tender buds of the same bush—and is the better choice when sending a tea gift.

It tastes of white chocolate and honeydew melon. The flavours aren’t obvious, and over-brewing will bring out a dry white wine taste, which some people enjoy!

I drink all my teas plain, because I want to enjoy the subtle flavours unhindered by fruits, spices, cream or sugar. With a refined palate, you can taste all of these (fruits, spices, cream and sugar/sweetness), and more flavours, in natural, unadulterated tea. Conclusion: do not add ginger to Bai Mudan.

Bai Mudan is light and voluminous. A normal brew, just three grams, is approximately one flat melon-scoopful of tea leaves. It also tastes very dry, so don’t drink too often. Drink it in combination with Silver Needles to demonstrate the differences between finer and rougher plucks very nicely. ★★★★

White tea: Bai Mudan with Ginger

Bai Mudan with Ginger

Should really be two drinks: Bai Mudan and a ginger tisane.
White tea » Fujian New White Teas, ★★
Also known as: 白牡丹姜茶, Ginger White Peony.

Bai Mudan with Ginger is a blend of Bai Mudan and tiny, dried ginger pieces that are almost invisible to the naked eye.

The tea leaves give a fresh, white chocolate aroma and have a smooth, white-chocolatey mouthfeel when brewed. Bai Mudan has the characteristic “sunshine taste” of all white teas, but the aged leaves of this tea have a unique dryness (comparable to that found in dry white wine), rather than the lightness of more exquisite white teas such as White Flowery Pekoe or Silver Needles.

The added ginger pieces are so small that their fragrance is almost completely exhausted after the first brew. Tastewise, notes of dry, warming ginger are almost completely absent from the third brew. It’s these later, gingerless brews that I prefer—ideally, the ginger would never have been added.

Personally, I think Bai Mudan and a ginger tisane should be two separate drinks. Even though the ingredients have similar effects on the body (both make you feel warm and dry), I think this strange Western habit of adding fruit and fragrances to tea is neither necessary nor respectful (to the leaves, nor to ancient tea culture). It always feels good to drink a Bai Mudan, but like many of the teas I’ve reviewed, I wouldn’t pay any money for this tea. ★★

White tea: White Flowery Pekoe

White Flowery Pekoe

It’s sunshine, dry white wine or burned depending on the brewing temperature.
White tea (no further subcategories), ★★★★
Also known as: 白毫银针, Silver Needle Tea.

I love white tea’s characteristic “sunshine taste”. This comes from its most simple production process: the leaves are plucked and dried in the sun, after which, the tea is ready to drink (or store). White teas are considered to have been invented first (before green, oolong, yellow, black and dark teas).

Brew White Flowery Pekoe any hotter than 80 °C and the dryness (as in ‘dry white wine’ dryness) will come out far too accentuated, which will stop you from drinking it. Ignore any advice that tells you to brew this tea hotter than 80 °C. Instead, brew it slowly in a teapot at 70 to 80 °C and enjoy its lightness without getting it ‘burned’.

Even better, use more leaf (7 grams) and quick brews (gongfu style) to delay the dryness and enjoy the sunshine taste completely uninhibited. The lightness matures into dryness with each successive brew, allowing you to enjoy the lighter flavours and still choose to stop drinking when it becomes too dry for your liking. (If you particularly like the dryness, try Bai Mudan white tea instead.)

Brew White Flowery Pekoe right and you’ll have a refreshing drink that changes with each successive brew. It’s best at the second brew, when its floral notes (of lilies and white chocolate) come out to play. Savour he sunshine taste, remember to treat it nicely and don’t burn it. ★★★★

Amazing Tea Taxonomy 茶叶分类

All The Tea In China, India and Africa. Amazing Tea Taxonony James Kennedy Beijing
All The Tea In China, India and Africa. Click to Download.

Note: There now exists a newer version of this post titled Tea Types 2012.

I love tea. And while studying, drinking and writing about tea, I’ve categorized all the teas you’re ever likely to encounter onto one simple poster. There are thousands more rarer types and subtypes, which you can add yourselves via the comments section. This selection is a great start (and it’s all I’m willing to show you). If you learn only one thing from this diagram, it should be that there are thousands of types of tea. Tetley Pyramid Teabags are just the beginning (overpriced sweepings from the factory floor).

Sources: The Story of Tea, 识茶泡茶品茶 (Chinese book), tea blogs too numerous to list, personal experience (teas I drank) and Baidu.

Notes:

  • Darjeeling is coloured ‘teal’ because it is technically a Oolong tea, despite being classified widely as a Black tea.
  • Black tea is coloured ‘red’ because the Chinese classify tea by the liquor colour rather than the colour of the dried leaves.
  • Pu’er is sometimes considered a separate category because of its popularity. In which case, the other (non-Pu’er) Dark teas are usually ignored. I’ve chosen to include both Pu’er and non-Pu’er Dark teas in this poster.
  • There are many more sub-types of each tea. Take Iron Buddha, for example, which has its own characteristics within the class of “Iron Buddha”. Age, oxidation level and unique fragrance are but some of these many characteristics.
  • Sundried Green teas such as those made for local consumption in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, are coloured ‘white’ because they are technically white teas, despite the production process having been re-evolved as a shortcut to Green tea production. Sundried Green teas are distinguished further from the other Green teas because, like the vast majority of White teas, they usually use large-leaf Assamica subspecies of tree (Chinese: 古茶树; English: “India Bush”).
  • Modern Flower teas are usually classified as Green, White or Black, depending on the leaf colour. These modern Flower teas are (almost) an existing tea blended with flower or flower essence. However, the traditional method of Flower tea manufacture (via a Zaobei leaf), was totally different from that of any of the other six tea categories. I have therefore included Flower teas as a seventh type of tea (to which some tea-lovers may protest). Be quiet. Drink tea.
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